When you're young, you believe that you can be anything. A doctor, a firefighter, a pilot, a T-Rex -- the sky's the limit. Once you grow up, you realize that the true limit is your own laziness and ineptitude, and that the most you can "be" is usually "a minimum-wage employee" and/or "clinically depressed." But some dedicated people decided that nothing was going to keep them from achieving their dreams -- not society, not the law, not even basic logic. Especially not basic logic.
Everyone deals with death differently. For example, when Thomas Parkin's mother died in 2003, he raided her closet, put on her clothes, and donned a wig. While he didn't take up a butcher knife as one would expect, he took up something else almost as worrisome: his mother's identity. That way, he could cash her Social Security checks.
Brooklyn District Attorney's Office
They knew he wasn't truly old when he didn't take any of the gross hard candy from the dish by the tellers.
But this wasn't just about the Social Security money. No, it wasn't also about grief and mental trauma -- it was also about other kinds of money. Parkin further hoped to get the Brooklyn brownstone that his mother owned, but which he couldn't afford to keep making payments on. That's what the SS money was being used for: a $2 million real-estate caper, like a crossover between Big Momma's House and White Collar.
But even though Parkin was able to renew his mother's driver's license and cash her checks, not everyone was fooled by his stunningly accurate old lady costume, which consisted of ugly sweaters, oversized sunglasses, and a walker. Police eventually did apprehend Parkin after a thorough investigation which consisted of "looking at him for a second."
In the end, Parkin got 13 years for grand larceny and mortgage fraud, although he still maintains that he did nothing wrong. And he's right, of course, if you don't count literally everything he had done up to that point.
In the 1970s, Gerald Barnbaum lost his pharmacology license and decided that getting it back would be too much of a hassle. So instead he changed his surname to "Barnes," stole the identity of a respected Stockton doctor, and received free copies of all of his degrees by picking up the phone and saying: "Could you send those over to this address? Yes, I'm totally Gerald Barnes. If I weren't Gerald Barnes, why would I want his degrees? You see the logic."
With the fake qualifications, he landed gigs at various clinics and hospitals, treating patients, writing prescriptions, and handing out god knows how many lollipops without proper medical training. Sadly, during that time, he also failed to properly diagnose a serious diabetic condition in one of the patients, sending him home without any treatment. He died two days later.
"Probably shouldn't have given him that lollipop ..."
He was arrested for involuntary manslaughter, for which he got three years in prison. See, until very recently, impersonating a doctor wasn't actually a felony in most states, despite being the kind of fraud that lets you touch strangers' genitalia. After serving his time, Barnbaum was released ... and immediately stole Barnes's identity again. Yes, the very same Stockton doctor.
It gets worse. Barnbaum was caught again, served time again, got out, and stole another identity. Yes, it was also Barnes's. He really, really liked that identity. That or he was too lazy to learn a new fake signature. In total, Barnbaum impersonated Barnes for close to 20 years. Maybe he thought it worked like squatting laws -- if you stay in an identity long enough, you get to keep it.
Katy Raddatz/San Francisco Chronicle
Possession of a lab coat embroidered with a name is nine-tenths of the law.
Perkin Warbeck was a servant boy in 15th-Century Belgium. The job took him all over Europe, from France to Portugal and eventually Ireland, where he worked for a silk merchant who let Perkin wear some of his wares. And those fancy clothes almost started a war.
Apparently, hanging around bluebloods rubbed off on Warbeck. He knew the etiquette, had the garb, and could do a passable fancy lad impression. And that's all it took for folks to believe he was the rightful king of England.
via Wiki Commons
He even looked like a playing card.
These rumors eventually reached the ears of the enemies of the real King of England, Henry VII. The anti-Henry group figured they could pass Perkin off as the son of Edward IV, whose line many thought had a legitimate claim to the English throne. Both the Kings of France and Scotland totally vouched for the guy, because seriously, he wore the hell out of that silk. This leant him so much legitimacy that when Perkin visited Vienna, he received the full royal treatment -- even though the guy he was pretending to be still wasn't the king.
John Everett Millais
One of these two. The girly one.
The enemies of Henry VII later tried to use Perkin to rouse a few armies against the King, and though they had one or two small victories, nothing really came from it. Perkin was eventually captured and hanged at age 25, thus providing us with the moral of the story: Don't dress well, or you will die brutally.
Most of us hated high school, and if you loved high school, you're probably one of the reasons we hated it. Not Treva Throneberry, though. She loved high school so much that she successfully conned her way into at least five of them over the course of 15 years. The last time she did it, at the Evergreen High School in Vancouver in 1997, she was 28 years old.
Almost old enough to play a teenager on TV.
She would roll into town, tell a local church that she was a runaway with a history of abuse, and let the nice people help enroll her in school. Then, once she graduated, she'd bolt, find a different city, and become a 16-year-old all over again. She'd essentially invented a fountain of youth, if only technically. Throneberry pulled the con from Texas to Idaho, Oregon, and finally Canada. There she made some friends, joined the tennis team, and, creepiest of all, got a boyfriend half her age.
Her prom dress was older than her prom date.
As for why she did it, well, all signs point to severe mental issues and a fear of growing up. Thankfully, the government fixed the latter by arresting Throneberry after she tried to apply for a Social Security card and someone ran her fingerprints. She was ultimately sentenced to three years at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.
As a side note, this story did teach us one important lesson: algebra sucks. Even after 15 years of trying, Throneberry never was able to get an A in it.
Thierry Tilly is a French conman who's been dubbed the "Leonardo da Vinci of mental manipulation," which must make for a hell of a business card. Tilly has claimed to be a descendant of the Hapsburgs, a secret agent working for a Dan Brown-esque secret group called "The Balance of the World" (itself an offshoot of the Knights Templar), and the enemy of another secret society of Freemasons and pedophiles. All at the same time.
Though one hopes we're all enemies of Freemasons and pedophiles.
After making contact with the matriarch of the aristocratic de Vedrines family, Tilly convinced three generations that they were the descendants of "Balance of the World" members, and that their lives were in mortal danger. Not only did they buy it, but they also let Tilly fill them with more paranoia than the guy with the bloodshot eyes buying nachos from 7-11 at 2 a.m. In the end, Tilly swindled more than $4.5 million from the de Vedrines.
We're starting to question our belief that all millionaires are geniuses.
Eventually, Tilly convinced the family that they needed to abandon their entire lifestyle and escape to Oxford, where they lived in a modest house and supported themselves by doing menial jobs. That's how skilled Tilly was: He convinced rich people to do manual labor. Finally, though, somebody broke from Tilly's spell and contacted the authorities, who then arrested him for fraud. Or so the masonic child molesters would have us believe.
You know all those facts you've learned about psychology from movies and that one guy at the party who says, "Actually ..." a lot? Please forget them. Chances are none of them are true. Take the Stanford Prison Experiment, the one famous psychology study people can name. It was complete bullshit. Funny story actually, it turns out that when you post flyers that say, "Hey, do you wanna be a prison guard for the weekend? Free food and nightsticks," you might not get the most stable group of young men. So join Jack O'Brien, Cracked staff members Dan O'Brien and Michael Swaim, and Psychology Professor Martie G. Haselton of UCLA as they debunk Rorschach tests, the Mozart effec,t and middle child syndrome, so soon you can be that person at the party who says, "Actually ..." Get your tickets here!
For more people who probably should've gone straight, check out 4 Brazenly Stupid Criminals Who Just Didn't Give A Crap and 8 Criminals Who Took Dumbassery To Staggering Heights.
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